We all know Egypt as the homeland of ginormous pyramids, epic dynastic families (Ptolemaic-pharaoh Cleopatra anyone?), and mummified cats, but did you know that a popular beat-the-heat drink was prominent among their peasantry?
That’s right, a “wine” made of lemon juice, dates and honey was their drink of choice.
Nowadays we just call this lemonade, but it’s still super badass!
Where did all these lemons come from?
Lemons were first discovered in the areas of Burma, China and Northern India, but they made their way to the Arab Countries, Iraq, Persia, and, most importantly, Egypt by 700 A.C.E.
The 11th century Persian traveler and poet Nasir-i-Khusraw left a chronicled description of life in Egypt under Fatamid caliph al-Mustansir, Diary of a Journey Through Syria and Palestine, in which he wrote:
From Aleppo to Tripoli is forty leagues, and, by the way we marched, we reached the latter city on Saturday, the 5th of Sha’aban (February 6th). The whole neighbourhood of the town is occupied by fields, and gardens, and trees. The sugar-cane* grows here luxuriously, as likewise orange and citron trees;** also the banana, the lemon, and the date.
Now it makes perfect sense that non-Egyptian countries had also included lemons in their culinary traditions, but unfortunately the earliest written evidence comes from Egypt, so they get all the credit for this one.
It wasn’t until the 6th century that lemonade was first introduced in France, and from there the glorious drink spread like wildfire.
So if you’re melting under an overwhelming summer heat, like I am, here’s a basic lemonade recipe:
1. Make a simple syrup of 1 cup each of sugar and water.
2. Juice 4-6 lemons, and combine with syrup.
3. Add water to the sweetened juice to your desired sweetness.